May 16, 2019 — Fresh off my visit with the CHET team, I accompanied Dana Patrick, director of critical care and emergency transport, on an elevator ride to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). On the way, Dana told me about a girl who had suffered traumatic injuries in an ATV accident in the desert and had just been admitted to the unit.

Angelina playing the role of a trauma victim

We arrived on the floor and watched as medical staff tended to the girl. She appeared to have significant injuries and, while we were there, her blood pressure started to drop. It got pretty tense, until the girl suddenly sat up in bed! Turns out it was just a very realistic simulation, and Angelina (the “victim”) is the daughter of PICU nurse Natassia Louis. Even though it was a training exercise, it was fascinating to watch the team perform and communicate as they would in an actual emergency. Dana told me this team has put a lot of work into simulations and mock codes, and it shows.  In fact, PICU Nurse of Excellence Jessica Guier is the leader of the mock code group. It’s reassuring to know we have such a well-trained team ready to handle any medical crisis that comes their way.

A golden celebration for the PICU’s Beacon Award

We then headed to a conference room that was completely decked out in gold in celebration of the PICU receiving a gold-level Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN). The three-year award acknowledges “caregivers in stellar units whose consistent and systematic approach to evidence-based care optimizes patient outcomes.” Only three PICUs in California and 12 across the United States received gold-level accolades. Definitely cause for celebration!

Everyone made sure I was color-coordinated with the party and presented me with a gold hat, tie, pocket square and my very own Beacon Award pin.

The PICU team kept the gold theme going during a trip to Orlando from May 21 to 23, when they attended the 2019 AACN National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition for high-acuity and critical care nurses. Wearing gold hats and capes, members showed their PICU pride and strutted their stuff in a celebration parade for AACN award winners.

PICU team members at the AACN Critical Care Expo

As incredible an honor as the Beacon Award is, there’s much more that defines this team.  During my visit, I learned about some important initiatives PICU team members (about 150 nurses including travelers and per diem) have underway, such as infection prevention. They’re doing a fantastic job at reducing the rates of CLABSI (central line-associated blood stream infections), CAUTI (catheter-associated urinary tract infections), VAE (ventilator-associated events) and VAP (ventilator-associated pneumonia).

I then heard about how the PICU team is learning to work more effectively with each other by using the DISC model technique to identify colleagues’ behavioral styles. It’s getting great reviews from staff.  I also learned about projects such as civility training, “Rady Set Go” and a great way the team is giving warm welcomes to new RNs.

Sporting my new Beacon Award pin

Thanks again to the incredible members of the PICU team, whose leadership, expertise and passion really are setting the gold standard for improving the lives of our patients.